So much research has come out over the last 10 years describing the negative long-term effects of stress. It is linked to increased rates of obesity, cancer, heart disease and depression, to name a few.
But we are now also learning about the short-term effects of stress on our health, of which some directly relate to injuries and athletic performance.
Stress, especially chronic stress, leads to elevated levels of a hormone called cortisol in your body. Cortisol has a range of effects on us, but in relation to athletic performance it does these key things:
- Elevated cortisol levels lowers your ability to develop collagen, the stuff that makes up your ligaments and tendons. This directly relates to weakened joint structure over time, and leaves you more prone to knee, shoulder, back and ankle injuries.
- Elevated stress levels block amino acid uptake after exercise, making it harder to build new muscle tissue.
- Chronic stress slows down recovery from exercise and athletic performance, leaving you more tired and sore than those without this condition.
So how do you avoid chronic stress and all it’s negative consequences?
Clearly that is a complex topic, and I’m no psychologist by any means.
But there is one way anyone can start to reverse their stress levels right now. And it has to do with changing your posture.
It is crazy to think this, but our posture has a direct effect on the hormones our body releases. When we are in a slumped forward, rounded shoulder position, we release more of the stress hormone cortisol into our bloodstreams.
But by standing in a victory pose (arms up high overhead) or a power pose (hands on hips, shoulders back) you can begin to reverse this.
Brief, daily meditation and yoga are two more great ways to get beyond the stress-posture issue.
Now I am not saying that standing like Superman with your hands on your hips is going to remove the cause of your stress, but I am saying that this will change how your body responds to it.
And it is the hormonal response to stress that is where the potential athletic performance and long-term health issues come from.
So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, throw your arms up overhead like you just won a world championship
Or put your hands on your hips and act like you’re a superhero for a couple minutes.
Then take note of your mood, because you quite possibly just found a simple but powerful way to better handle all the crazy stuff that will come at you later today.